March Madness Elite Eight best bets: Picks against the spread for USC, UCLA


VSiN’s experts give their March Madness best bets and most likely upsets for the two Elite Eight games being played Tuesday.

All odds listed are a consensus from VSiN’s March Madness Vegas odds page.

USC vs. Gonzaga (-9, 153.5)

USC forward Isaiah Mobley reacts to a call during the Trojans' win over Oregon.
USC forward Isaiah Mobley reacts to a call during the Trojans’ win over Oregon in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament on Sunday.
(Tim Nwachukwu / Getty Images)

Two of the most dominant teams in this year’s NCAA tournament will meet in the West region final on Tuesday. Gonzaga and USC are both 3-0 ATS. Gonzaga has outscored its opponents by a combined 77 points while the Trojans have cruised past its opponents by a combined 64 points. Betting against the freight train that is Gonzaga is not typically an enjoyable experience. The undefeated Bulldogs have won 28 of their 29 games this season by double figures. That includes wins over Kansas (102-90), Iowa (99-88), Virginia (98-75) and three double-digit wins over Brigham Young. On Dec. 2, West Virginia was the only team to lose to Gonzaga by less than 10 points (87-82). USC, however, poses a unique challenge with the Mobley brothers inside. Freshman Evan Mobley (7 feet) and sophomore Isaiah Mobley (6-10) have been tremendous during the NCAA tournament. The Mobley brothers have combined to average 27.3 points per game, 17 rebounds per game, and 3.7 blocks per game in the tournament. Defensively, USC has played a lot of zone during the tournament and has held opponents to 32% shooting. The Trojans currently rank fourth in Ken Pomeroy’s adjusted defensive efficiency rankings. Gonzaga is a well-oiled machine on offense. The Bulldogs are No. 1 in adjusted offensive efficiency and have been held under 80 points just three times this year.

The fascinating matchup will be inside the three-point arc. With the Mobley brothers’ length, USC is No. 1 in the nation in two-point field-goal defense. Opponents are shooting just 41.5% inside the arc. Gonzaga is shooting 63.9% from two-point range, tops in the nation.

The Bulldogs are the most dynamic offense in the country with weapons all over the floor, but the USC defense should be able to slow them down enough to keep the game close. Additionally, the Mobley brothers should cause some issues for Gonzaga center Drew Timme on both ends of the court. Timme was unstoppable against Oklahoma, finishing with 30 points, and had 22 points against Creighton.

While the Trojans might not advance to the Final Four, USC coach Andy Enfield should improve to 10-0 ATS over his career in the NCAA tournament.

Play: USC +9

UCLA vs. Michigan (-7.5, 136.5)

UCLA guard Johnny Juzang drives on Alabama guard Keon Ellis.
UCLA guard Johnny Juzang, left, drives on Alabama guard Keon Ellis during the Bruins’ NCAA tournament win in the Sweet 16 on Sunday.
(Michael Conroy / Associated Press)

Dave Tuley: Very few people had UCLA in the Elite Eight coming out of a “First Four” play-in game as a No. 11 seed (and I challenge anyone to find me a bracket with UCLA here that wasn’t filled out by a Bill Walton), but the Conference of Champions has three teams a game away from the Final Four. As great as the Pac-12 has performed, UCLA is the only one I see with a chance to win Monday or Tuesday night (at least cover the spread). In this situation, we really can’t rely on rankings and stats accumulated over the course of the year (and in which Michigan racked up its stats against a conference that we’ve now learned was overrated) while UCLA’s past performances versus the underrated Pac-12 wasn’t given the credit it deserved. We have to rely more on what we’ve seen on the court, and considering I had Alabama beating Michigan in this round, I have to like the Bruins after the way they took care of Bama despite being outsized on the boards. In addition, this game has an over/under of 136 so points will be at a premium, which helps when getting this many points. I have both teams scoring in the 60s.

Pick: UCLA +7.5

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